Back home in Panama City there is this little pizza shop, owned by a Greek family, called Athens Pizza. OMG, their stuff is amazing, anything you order is drool-worthy. The menu is definitely Mediterranean, and everything is fresh as fresh can be. According to my gourmet nephew, this place has "the best tzatziki sauce outside of Greece." He's right! Their sauce is outstanding, and very authentic.
What is tzatziki sauce?
The word tzatziki is a derivative of the Turkish word caciq, which in turn is related to other words in some Western Asian languages. A similar food is popular in many Balkan countries where it is served as a mezze, or as a side dish. Also, depending on the country, different herbs are used.
Basically, plain yogurt, seedless cucumber, garlic, salt and pepper. I personally like to drizzle olive oil on top and sprinkle some fresh dill. Someone told me that dill is not 100% authentic. No worries, cooking is about innovation and taste. You can try using different herbs to reflect different culture’s interpretations of the sauce. That’s the fun thing about tzatziki is that it exists across many countries in the Mediterranean and Middle East. Each culture uses the base of yogurt, cucumber, and garlic, but the herbs in each vary. Some cultures add aleppo pepper, sumac, dill, and more. Some serve it with hot stews, or simply in the summer as a part of a cold mezze. It’s an extremely versatile side which is why I love it so much. You can be really creative with how you use it.
And while we're on the subject of innovation, let me make another suggestion: mint. Yup, I've used mint in my homemade tzatziki sauce mainly because I have an overabundance of it in my back yard. One of the reasons I grow mint is to make mint juleps; I just felt the need to confess. While it’s not a traditional method of serving tzatziki, it’s definitely a nice addition! It’s a nice addition to the yogurt, as the mintiness cuts through the fat.
You can use my authentic Greek tzatziki recipe as a dip, for carrots and other veggies, or some pita chips. It also goes well with grilled meats, think kebabs or grilled lamb. YUM!
If you were worried about how to make tzatziki sauce, this recipe is pretty easy. The only word of warning here is that you need to make sure that the cucumber is very dry when you mix it in with the tzatziki. Why? well, cucumber has a high water content which can make your dip watery, and that is the last thing you want. If you have a cheesecloth or nut-milk bag, you can throw the shredded cucumber in them and squeeze the water out. In a pinch, I’ve used paper towels and rags to absorb all the water. It won’t absorb all of the water completely, but it gets the job done.
I also find that the English cucumbers also know as seedless cucumbers work best as they are mostly seedless and have a very tender skin.
Oh, and the garlic. As far as this ingredient is concerned, I am leaving it totally up to you. I have a friend who LOVES garlic, as in there are no evil spirits in her house LOVE. I have a more temperate relationship with garlic, so I use it with caution.
I know some garlic lovers who feel that when it comes to tzatziki, there is such a thing as too much garlic. Garlic has a much punchier and pronounced taste when it is served raw. Be mindful of that when you decide on how much you want to add.
Tzatziki sauce step by step photos:
- Gather all your ingredients and have them measured out and ready to go.
- Grate half of the English or seedless cucumber on a fine grater.
- Place the grated cucumber into a cheese cloth and squeeze out as much water as possible. You can also press into a very fine strainer also.
- You will have a moist pulp as shown and it will be about ¼ cup.
- In a large bowl add the plain Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, minced garlic, nutmeg and optionally the chopped dill.
- Finally add in the cucumber then stir to fully combine.
I recommend letting the tzatziki rest for at least an hour and up to overnight to fully let the flavors come together and pronounce themselves. If you taste the tzatziki right after mixing versus after a few hours in the fridge, you will definitely taste a difference. The garlic will be more pronounced and, if you decide to add herbs, they will have settled their essences in the yogurt.
Frequently asked questions:
- How long can I store the tzatziki? This will store nicely in an airtight container refrigerated for 3-4 days. You may get a little water separation from the cucumber but just give it a stir to combine.
- What can I serve this with? This is a very versatile sauce and I typically serve with grilled lamb, beef or chicken kebabs wrapped in pita. We also use it as a dip for veggie trays. It goes great on grilled burgers instead of the traditional ketchup and mustard.
In the meantime, why don't you make some? Let me know how you like it, and also if you added any extra ingredients.
Want to try more flavors from the Mediterranean?
Melomakarona - Greek Christmas cookies that are soaked in honey and topped with crunchy nuts.
Avgolemono - Greek-style creamy chicken soup that's actually dairy-free!
Moroccan Beef Kebabs - Grilled tender beef with Mediterranean spices served with herbed couscous
Mediterranean Parsley Salad - A light and healthy side dish that doesn't shy on flavor.
Dolmas - Grape leaves stuffed with lemony herbed rice.
Authentic Greek Tzatziki Sauce Recipe
A delicious and healthy Greek sauce to complement any of your grilled needs or veggies. Made with yogurt, garlic and cucumber.
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
mint for garnish - optional
Grate the cucumber with a fine grater.
Place the grated cucumber in a strainer or cheese cloth and gently squeeze down to remove as much water as possible. You should have a moist pulp when done.
- In a bowl place the Greek yogurt, salt, pepper, and garlic, then stir to combine.
Add in the cucumber, then stir in the dill, and the nutmeg. Drizzle with olive oil, and top with chopped mint if desired.
Originally published July 2017 and updated June 2020.